Why cross-functional project management and why enterprise project management tools?
Cross-functional project management is a type of project management that uses a variety of skillsets and expertise to get tasks done. This is best done by forming project teams that have members coming from across multiple departments within the organization.
Diversifying a project team allows for a project to be improved on through perspective; allowing for more thorough execution and strategization because of the insights that can only come from a variety of experienced skillsets and knowledge base.
These project team members can be folks from marketing, engineering, product (project or program), design, sales, customer experience and any other departments that a company might have. Cross functional project management is really about collaborative project management.
Within my own experience, when I’ve been on teams that offered this sort of collaborative project management, there were times that use cases would be brought up that I could not have seen unless I had the experience with the users that say customer experience had. Or engineering with their perspective of the development process.
This can really help improve products & projects and also aid in the prevention of additional risks that may not have otherwise been realized. This can lead to more successful projects in the long run.
Project management must have: effective communication
While adding diversity, perspective and knowledge into your projects is beneficial to accomplishing the company’s goals, it does mean that there will be a greater range in the communication styles and preferences of the teams. There are different work styles, flows, and sometimes even different project management tools.
When teams are either not in the same tools or have completely different work priorities, it can become challenging to become aligned on the tasks at hand and around the goals and priorities around them. Add in the complexities that have grown with our new hybrid and remote workforces; effective communication and team engagement can become ever more elusive.
Setting up the specialized team is only one element required for cross-functional project success. Companies should have effective communication strategies in place to manage expectations, set standards, and help the members know the what, how, when, and where of the work to be done.
Once the communication plans have been set, the next best thing to help teams stay on track is through the use of enterprise project management tools.
Project management software as a starting place for work communication
An ideal enterprise project management tool is a project management system that allows the teams to effectively communicate in a straight forward way. Often times, project management systems can be bloated with features that are very specific to certain types of project members — such as being designed primarily for agile software development and forsaking the marketing team that doesn’t operate in 2 week sprints.
This makes it even more important to properly assess and look at the user experience of these tools and ask questions like, “Can this be used for both work styles?” “Can this enterprise tool work for both my marketing team and engineering teams?” “What is the learning curve for the cross functionality of this software?”
As the company solves for these things, the likelihood of a project’s success increases when teams have the tools and support they need to execute well.
What are the benefits of using tools designed for enterprise projects?
Enterprise project management software benefits companies across all levels — enterprises, small, medium, large. A shift does occur, though, when the organization reaches a certain team and structure size where alignment, communication and goal setting increases in complexity. As mentioned before, communication and priority management morphs into a larger concept that requires some deliberate harnessing to plan for success.
Size aside, however; the moment your project team becomes cross functional or even if there is national or global distance between them, the benefits of a well chosen cross functional project management software can begin to be actualized.
Benefits & must haves of a Enterprise Project Management Software
There are many benefits to using project management tools already. The relevance becomes even more important for diverse and dispersed teams operating in both enterprise and otherwise environments. These include:
- Clarity through clear goal setting
- Easier coordination
- Central dependency management
- Priority task settings & assigning
- Asynchronous work
Clarity through clear goal setting
Teams need to be empowered to make decision as they need to — this becomes easier, though, as they have access to more information and as they have constant clarity on the goals that decisions should be based on.
When a team has the ability to ask the question “How does this impact Goal xyz?” at every choice, eliminating shiny object syndrome gets easier and teams can stay better focused on the work that makes an impact.
Have you ever been in a project where one team member thought the priorities were completely different than they were?
It happens to even the best developed projects and occurs for many of the reasons cross-functional project management is important — with a higher propensity occurring because of the benefits of cross functionality.
The right project management system, however, will create cohesion around the work and goals to be accomplished. The trick to this, however, is filtering out the noise often coming from project management systems. Many of them claim to create cohesion by the nature of just “being a project management system.”
The reality is that simply seeing the tasks does not create cohesion. There is a level of flexibility, engagement, and external work that most of these systems are requiring from their users to achieve this.
Smoother Coordination efforts
A feature to look for in a tool is one that allows for easy status updates, project updates and relevant team information. Maintaining a single source of truth is fundamental to prevent misinformation, misunderstandings, and to create continuity in process. Once every one is on the same page, coordination of work effort because easier and less involved.
Priority task setting & assigning
How does your team know what to work on next?
A system that offers Kanban, backlog, task management, to do lists, should also offer features that allow you to set a priority and assign tasks as needed to relevant team members.
Central Dependency Management
Getting that big picture overview can be a challenge: especially when individuals are often very specialized into what they do. It’s vital that someone or something holds the overview so that details aren’t missed. This is also another thing that makes the cross-functional team so important — so details aren’t lost.
It’s important to select a project management system that allows you to keep the high level view in focus. Without it, you can easily miss that a task from feature development XYZ is dependent on the completion of feature from abc.
Working from home? Have a team member that is remote while the other two members work hybrid or in office? One team member in Europe while the other in California?
When project work is tracked correctly by everyone on the team, it becomes easier and easier for teams to make progress without being in the same time zone or the same place.
Selecting an Enterprise Project Management Tool
Because enterprise project management tools are not just for large corporations, it’s important to stop and look at the needs for the organization. Asking questions like
- How many team members need to use this?
- How do they like to see information? What learning styles do they have predominantly?
- How flexible is the software or how flexible do we need it to be?
- What is our current project management process like? How many tools do we use currently?
- Do our current tools need to integrate with the new system?
- How secure do we need our project data to be?
- Are we using program management, product or project management? All of them?
- How much are we looking to spend on software?
Once you have identified the organizational needs, you can create a list to compare those needs to what the tools are able to do.
Open source software as an Enterprise Project Management Tool
Determining the right software can be complicated and take a lot of trial and error. SaaS is becoming a more expensive and flexibility within the software can get complicated — to the point where some systems really need someone else to set them up for you.
Open source software should be a must in your consideration list as it can offer levels of customization that you may not be able to get from the other systems. For us here at Leantime, this could be done through a secure on premise server installation where your company and teams can continue to build in features that are specific to your organization and for integration into your tools. This can be particularly relevant in financial, healthcare, and governmental fields as we are one of the few project management softwares still offering on premise and self hosted installations.
Other benefits of using something like Leantime for your enterprise project management needs include flexible licensing and support options. We believe in project management for everyone and have focused on usability and simple strategy creation & alignment within projects — making the system easy to use across functions and departments.
Conclusion: Enterprise and cross functional project management can help your business with better project success
With project failure rates as high as 70%, it becomes even more important for businesses to harness the benefits of well executed cross functional project management. There are a wide variety of tools and tool types to help accomplish this with project management software being one. Choosing the right software is vital in obtaining the best outcomes and open source project management is one tool avenue to consider due to additional flexibility and security.